India inspects plants of spice makers MDH, Everest over alleged contamination

Boxes of Everest fish curry masala are stacked on the shelf of a shop at a market in Srinagar

By Chris Thomas

BENGALURU (Reuters) -India is inspecting facilities of spice makers MDH and Everest for compliance with quality standards after Hong Kong halted sales of some of their products for allegedly containing high levels of a cancer-causing pesticide.

Hong Kong this month suspended sales of three MDH spice blends and an Everest spice mix for fish curries. Singapore ordered a recall of the Everest spice mix, saying it contains high levels of ethylene oxide, which is unfit for human consumption and a cancer risk with long exposure.

MDH and Everest spices are among the most popular in India and are sold in Europe, Asia and North America. Exports totaled $4 billion in 2022-23, according to the Spices Board, the industry regulator in India.

The board said on Wednesday it had sought data on MDH and Everest exports from relevant authorities in Hong Kong and Singapore and was working with the companies to find the "root cause" of the issue as inspections started at plants.

"Thorough inspections at exporter facilities are also underway to ensure adherence with regulatory standards. ... The Board is in touch with Indian missions in Singapore and Hong Kong to get more information," it said in a statement.

MDH and Everest did not immediately respond to queries about the Spices Board's statement.

On Tuesday, Everest said in a statement its spices were safe for consumption and its products were exported "only after receiving necessary clearances and approval from the laboratories of the Spice Board of India."

MDH has not commented on the matter.

The Spices Board added it was starting mandatory testing for ethylene oxide in spice consignments to Singapore and Hong Kong, while shipments to other countries would also be strictly monitored for the contaminant.

(Editing by Richard Chang)